This study was conducted to investigate the conflict resolution mechanisms in public secondary schools in Ebonyi state, Nigeria. Four research questions and three hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. The study adopted descriptive survey research design. The population of the study comprised of all the public secondary school principals and teachers in Ebonyi State. The sample for the study is 260 respondents, out of the total population of 5228 respondents. The instrument for data collection was a structured questionnaire titled conflict resolution mechanisms questionnaire. The data generated for the study was analyzed using mean and standard deviation for answering the research questions while t-test statistics was used for testing the null hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance. It was discovered from the findings that cause of conflicts in schools include: individual aggressiveness, authoritarianism, frustration due to uncoducive working atmosphere, poor motivation and stress from the job, misunderstanding, not taking instructions, poor communication, lack of commitment, poor management and differences in opinion. Conflicts in schools are manifested through destruction of public properties, blocking the highways and preventing others from attending to their work peacefully, writing of petitions against authority by staff, students/community riots, teachers strikes, verbal hostility expressed in for of rebukes and defamation of character, demonstration and carrying of placards and of songs.  Conflicts encourage indiscipline, breeds non-charlant attitude to work, and adversely affects students’ performance and drag reputation of schools to mud. Conflicts could be resolved by involving both parties to a conflict in a discussion, involving teachers and student in decision-making; being fair and firm, and holding regular meetings with the PTA. Based on the finding the researcher recommended that educational administrations and planner should appreciate the causes of conflict and put in place mechanism for handling then when they come up. Government at all levels should reduce and avert conflict by providing good working environment in the schools.  


Title page                                                                                             i

Approval                                                                                                                      ii

Certification                                                                                                           iii

Dedication                                                                                                         iv

Acknowledgment                                                                                      v

Abstract                                                                                                              vi

Table of Contents                                                                                      vii

List of tables                                                                                                        vii


Background of the Study                                                                                        1

Statement of the Problem                                                                                     9

Purpose of the Study                                                                                    11

Significance of the Study           11                                                                            

Scope of the study                                                                                     13

Research Questions                                                                                  13

Hypotheses                                                                                                 14


Conceptual Framework                                                                         16

  • Concept of Conflicts                                                                       16
  • Concept of Resolution                                                                                   21
  • Concept of Conflict Resolution                                                         22
  • Concept of Conflict Resolution Mechanisms                                      24
  • Concept of Secondary Schools                                                      26

Theoretical Framework:                                                                               52

  • Georg Simmel Social Conflict Theory                                         52
  • Fisher and Keashly Contingency Theory                                   53

Review of Related Empirical Studies                                                             54

Summary of Literature Review                                                                   57


 Design of the Study                                                                     60            

Area of the Study                                                                                          60

Population of the study                                                                                    61

Sample and Sampling Techniques                                                      61 

Instrument for Data Collection                                                                    61    

Validation of the Instrument                                                               62

Reliability of the Instrument                                                                           62

Method of Data Collection                                                                          62  

Method of Data Analysis                                                                               63


Summary of the Findings                                                                                    69


Discussion of findings                                                                                    71

Conclusion                                                                                      73

Implications of the study                                                                             74

Recommendations                                                                              75

Limitation of the study                                                                                   76

Suggestion for further studies                                                                  76  

References                                                                                                     79      

Appendices                                                                                          84

APPENDIX A: Corrected instrument                                     86

APPENDIX B: List of public secondary schools in Ebonyi state       93

APPENDIX C: Reliability test                                                   101

List of tables

Table 1: Mean rating and standard deviation on the causes of conflicts in public secondary schools in Ebonyi State                          64                                       

Table 2: Mean rating and standard deviation on the nature of conflicts in public secondary schools in Ebonyi State                                                                                                        65

Table 3: Mean rating and standard deviation on the impacts of conflicts on the administration of public secondary schools                                                                                                       66

Table 4: Mean rating and standard deviation on the management strategies can be adopted for the resolution of conflicts in public secondary schools                                                                     66

Table 5: Summary of t-test analysis for hypothesis One                          67

Table 6: Summary of t-test analysis for hypothesis Two                    68

Table 7: Summary of t-test analysis for hypothesis Three                        68



Background of the Study

Conflict is experienced within the individual, between individuals, among groups, states and sometimes transcend to other creatures. The fact that this phenomenon exists in all creation makes it difficult to understand and almost impossible to resolve successfully, especially when its causes are natural. When conflict is resolved there is bound to be peace. The major concern has been how to give meaning to this phenomenon, diagnose its structure, locates its causes and attempts finding solution. In spite of all the efforts, by the Government conflict appears to defy solutions by drawing individuals at daggers points, groups as well as institutions at war and nations at loggerheads. It has been a central concern not only to these mentioned categories but also to international community and development agencies. According to Onu (2005), One major reason for the concern about conflict resolution and transformation is because if it becomes protracted, conflicts can wrap up a society, economies or regions where they are situated in complex emergencies which can in turn be extended to global environment, and become obstacle to peace and progress. For any organization to perform effectively, interdependent individuals and groups within the organization must establish relationships across organizational boundaries, between individuals and among groups.

            Individuals or groups may depend on one another for information, assistance, or coordinated actions. Such inter-dependence may foster either cooperation or conflict. Conflict connotes disagreement, distortions inconsistencies and antagonisms existing in a particular system. It could equally mean discord in actions, lack of concordance in opinion in order to achieve one’s own goal.

Conflicts arise in virtually every human organization, secondary schools inclusive. This is so because in every human organization, the individual characteristics such as aggressiveness, authoritarianism, and frustration due to un-conducive working atmosphere, poor motivation, and stress from the job create tension in the organization. According to Ikejiani-clark (2009), conflict is a natural and inevitable part of people working together, sharing diverse thoughts, concerns, perspectives and goals. It may occur at inter-organizational, organizational, inter-group and interpersonal levels. For example, there may be conflicts involving a school and the community; where the school is located the principal,  the staff and students, students and the school authority, a staff and a fellow staff or between two students, or among staff or among students. Ezegbe (1997) defines conflicts as mutual hostility in inter-human relationships. The mutual hostility, according to her, can occur in form of insults, name calling, defamation of character, blackmailing, sarcasm, false accusation, withdrawal of services, salaries, fringe benefits or incentives, strikes and demotion. White and Bednar cited in Imhabekhai (2000), defines conflict as the interplay of interdependent people or groups who perceive incompatible goals and interference from each other in achieving those goals.

According to Nye (2001) conflict is conceived as “mutual hostility” at interpersonal, inter-human, inter-group, and inter-ethnic, inter-cultural and at inter-national level. It is a situation where the disputants are hostile to each other or to one another in order to achieve their set goals or objectives, which are usually regulated by hierarchy of human needs, selfishness, possessiveness, greediness, as well as sociological, political, cultural, psychological and religious motives. According to Harks (2001), conflict means: to come into collision, clash or be in opposition or at variance. It equally means ‘strife’, controversy, discord of action, disagreement in opinions, and antagonism of interest or principle. Kemper (2001), while relating conflict behavior to conflict concept, defined inter-personal conflict as “that role situation in which the organizational conditions, practices, needs or goals of different members appear incompatible to those other members. Imobughe (2005) sees conflict as a state of disharmony in an interactional process describing it thus, as an inevitable universal phenomenon affecting all cultures irrespective of size, political, social and economic development. Udomo (2000) sees conflict as disagreement and misunderstanding between two parties concerning an issue(s). Conflict he said exists where there is divergent or different ideas to a matter under consideration. People who are in conflict are termed to be quarreling, disunited, struggling and fighting over things. He concluded that where there is conflict people tend not to cooperate with each other; cold war exists and things fall apart. Conflicts are part and parcel of human organizations world over. This indeed is a paradox because of the amount of energy and resources expended by organization to prevent and or resolve conflicts. Flippo (2005) attempted an explanation why there must be conflict when he remarked that, a total absence of conflict would be unbelievable, boring, and strong indication that conflict is suppressed. The inevitability of conflict was also established by Kerzner (1998) when he asserted that conflict is part of change and therefore inevitable.

It is therefore not an aberration to expect conflicts in the administration of secondary schools in Ebonyi State. The nature and types of conflicts that occur in secondary school administration vary from one school to another. These types of conflicts include internal and external conflict. Internal conflict is person versus self, while external is person versus nature and environment. According to Kirkwood (2002), various types of conflict that exist in organizations include data conflicts, structural conflicts, relationship conflicts, and interest conflicts. Conflicts can lead to disputes, grievances, lawsuits, complaints, strikes, and disciplinary actions. Conflicts can occur at a number of levels of human functioning. Conflict which lies on the shoulder of an administrator between opposing motives or ideas is shown by its “internal dialogue” and is at the intra- personal level. According to Okeibunor and Anugwom (2002), the primary concern here is with the social conflict, that is, conflict between people whether they are acting as individuals, as members of groups, or as representatives of organizations or nations. Interpersonal conflicts occur when two or more people have incompatible needs, goals, or approach in their relationship.

Communication breakdown is often an important source of interpersonal conflict and learning communication skill is valuable in preventing and resolving such difficulties. However, very real differences occur between people that cannot be resolved by any amount of improved communication. “Personality conflict” refers to very strong differences in motives, values or style in dealing with people that are not resolvable. For example, if both parties in a relationship have a high need for power and both want to be dominant in the relationship, there is no way both can be satisfied, and a power struggle ensues. Common tactics used in interpersonal power struggle include the exaggerated use of rewards and punishments, deception and evasion, threats and emotional blackmail. Unresolved power conflict usually recycles and escalates to the point of relationship breakdown and termination. Role conflict involves very real differences in role definitions, expectations or responsibilities between individuals who are interdependent in a social system. If there are ambiguities in role definitions in an organization or unclear boundaries of responsibilities, then the stage is set for interpersonal friction between the persons involved. Unfortunately, role conflict is often misdiagnosed as interpersonal conflict rather than role conflict, and resolution is then complicated and misdirected. The emotional intensity is often quit high in role conflict since people are directly involved as individuals and there is a strong tendency to personalize the conflict (Fisher, 2000).

Inter-group conflict occurs between groups of people such as ethnic or racial groups, departments or levels of decision making in the same organization, union and management. Competition for scarce resources is a common source of inter-group conflict in less disruptive ways. According to Fisher (2000), social-psychological processes are very important in inter-group conflict. Group members tend to develop stereotypes (oversimplified negative beliefs) of the opposing group, tend to blame them for their own problems (scape-goat), and practice discrimination against them. These classic symptoms of inter group conflict can be just as evident in organizations as in race relations in community settings. Inter-group conflict is tense and prone to escalation when identities are threatened. The common conflicts observable in secondary schools usually occur between the students on one hand and the school authority on the other. Other forms of conflict include interpersonal conflicts among staff as well as among the students. Higher levels of conflicts in schools involve the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and the federal or state government. For instance, Ebonyi state workers (teachers inclusive) embarked on a prolonged strike from August 17th to September 30th, 2011 over the non-implementation of the Harmonized Salary Structure (HSS) announced by the Federal Government in October 2010. The partial implementation of HSS for workers in the state after a long delay did not help matters. Such things as non-satisfaction of teachers’ genuine demand are potential sources of industrial conflicts not only in the educational sector, but also in the entire civil service in the state. The inability of the government to effect payment of salaries promptly could generate conflict between workers and the government or an organization. Principals, teachers and educational administrators perceive the commonest source of conflicts in secondary schools as poor salaries and inadequate facilities.

The conflicts that arise in secondary school system could be attributed to such factors as lack of effective communication network, unconducive atmosphere or the working environment generally, management style, and disagreement over goals. Conflicts are inherent and inevitable in any human organization, including the educational system. (Fisher, 2000) Conflict occurs when two or more values, perspectives and opinions are contradictory in nature and have not been aligned or agreed about yet, including: within oneself  when one is not living according to one’s values;  when values and perspectives are threatened; or discomfort from fear of the unknown or from lack of fulfillment. Conflicts is inevitable and often good, for example, good teams always go through a “form, storm norm and perform” period. Getting the most out of diversity means often-contradictory values, perspectives and opinions (McNamara, 2007). The existence and prevalence of such conflict and their traumatic effects cannot be ignored or allowed to linger. It should be controlled and resolved, because when hostility is not resolved, the effect is disharmony and lack of peace. According to Oputa (2003), peace advances development, growth and progress, peace is order, peace is brotherhood and peace is life itself. This is to say that when conflicts are allowed to linger, no matter at what level, the school will not be able to achieve its aims and objectives and develop as expected even with the highest quality of staff and infrastructure. Hence, unrestricted and unresolved conflict is dysfunctional to any organization.

Conflicts resolution is the process of attempting to resolve a dispute or a conflict. Successful conflict resolution starts by listening to and providing opportunities to meet the needs of all parties and by adequately addressing interests, so that, each party is satisfied with the outcome (Weaver, 2003). Conflict resolution is all about finding the win-win outcome for parties involved, versus the win-lose dynamic found in most conflicts. ‘Conflict   resolution aims to avoid conflicts before they start or before they lead to verbal, physical, or legal fighting or violence.  Conflict resolution implies the means and ways of checking and reducing tension to avoid its disastrous effect. Oputa (2003) asserts that one of the effective ways of conflict resolution is dialogue and reconciliation. Handy (1997), listed the use of dialogue, confrontation, arbitration and others as strategies for conflicts resolution. There are other means such as catharsis, super-ordinate goals, empathy, grid theory, synergy, and address by influential person, satisfaction of human needs, prayer, and separation device. These strategies are employed at checking and reducing tension and its effects.

The art of conflict resolution is grounded on the fundamental principles of management processes as outlined by Fredrick Taylor (Taylor 1911). Conflict management as a process entails assembling activities, of planning and monitoring the performance of a process. It involves the application of knowledge, skills, tools, techniques and systems to define, visualize, measure, control, report, and improve processes with the goal to achieve harmonious environment of co-existence. Schools as organizations in their own right have managers such as educational administrators, schools principals and teachers who are charged with the responsibility of maintaining stability in order to achieve organizational goals. Conflicts in Ebonyi state public secondary schools are on the rise in the recent past (Ebonyi Record, Newspaper July 22, 2010).

The government of Ebonyi state stated her concern over the disturbances in learning institutions where in some cases students have burnt down schools and even attacked teachers. This mainly arises due to unresolved conflicts between the students and the schools’ administrators. Educationists such as principals and teachers equally agree that most schools now spend little time on academics because indiscipline and its management consume so much time. This has had negative impacts on the academic performance of students. It is also widely acknowledged by the school community that violence against teachers, other students and destruction of property both in the learning institution and surrounding communities, goes a long way to buttress the teachers’ role in conflict resolution as well as their role in  creating a peaceful teaching and learning atmosphere. The right attitude and environment that begets productivity cannot be expected in a system that is conflict ridden. There is therefore the great need to resolve conflicts within the secondary school system. Effective resolution of such conflict is highly dependent on the identification of the conflicts areas.

Generally, conflicts in secondary schools inhibit progress, growth and development. Although some conflict theorists have argued that some amount of conflict is an evidence of organizational growth, an unrestricted conflict is harmful to any organization and must be checked. This is to say that conflict is a two-edged sword, if properly managed, it leads to growth and innovation, but other-wise, it leads to disputes, feeling of insecurity, confusion, resentment and dissatisfaction among the authorities, staff and students.

If there exists an ugly conflict in secondary schools (for instance between students and the school authorities or the staff and students) there is bound to be resentment and uncooperative behavior between the conflicting parties. Therefore, the importance of peaceful environment in the secondary schools cannot be over emphasized. For secondary schools to function effectively and achieve their goals and objectives there must be peaceful co-existence and a conducive teaching and learning atmosphere. The principal as the administrator alone cannot bring about the desired peace and also perform his other administrative functions effectively.  Conflicts areas that apply to principals and teachers arise due to such action as Appointment done not based on interest, and academic competence. Non-involvement of staff subordinates and peers in decision making process; insensitivity and compelling staff and subordinates to implement decisions which they do not participate in their formulation among many others. Considering the fact that success of the principal in the implementation of school objectives and goals solely depends on the teachers’ cooperation and understanding to develop the school programmes, there is crucial need to resolve such conflicts.

A functional educational system, particularly the secondary school system, requires an adequate conflict resolution strategy to enhance organizational effectiveness between staff and students, staff and the principal, school and the community. This will enhance effective achievement of set goals and objectives. There is need for the teachers as members of the school and the community to be actively involved in the resolution of conflicts, so that student- related conflicts which have often times occurred in educational institutions will be curbed, especially in the secondary schools. In this regard, the teachers are expected to co-operate with other members of staff, the students, principals and members of the community to ensure the needed co-existence, peace and harmonious relationships towards achieving effective teaching and learning. It is likely that most of the conflicts that disrupt activity in schools are as a result of teachers’ lack of involvement in creating peaceful environment in schools.

This situation demands that teachers should be actively involved in preventing and managing conflicts in schools to achieve a harmonious relationship that leads to effective goals achievement. This informs the researcher’s interest to investigate the conflict resolution mechanism in public secondary schools in Ebony State.

Statement of the Problem